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In the galleries: Bob Woodward's typed notes about his meeting with Deep Throat

Bob Woodward's typed notes about his meeting with Deep Throat.
Bob Woodward's typed notes about his meeting with Deep Throat.

Between 1972 and 1976, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke one of the biggest stories in American politics. Beginning with their investigation of a burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex, Woodward and Bernstein uncovered a series of crimes that eventually led to the indictments of 40 White House and administration officials and ultimately to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. While reporting on the scandal for The Washington Post and for their subsequent books, Woodward and Bernstein kept all of their notes and drafts. The result is a meticulous record of the Watergate scandal from beginning to end, providing a behind-the-scenes perspective into the nature of investigative journalism, the American political process, and the Nixon presidency.

Bob Woodward’s secret source about the Watergate scandal, famously referred to by the reporters and their editors as “Deep Throat,” was identified as FBI Associate Director Mark Felt in 2005.

In his typed notes from an early morning parking garage meeting on October 9, 1972, Woodward simply refers to the exchange with Felt as “interview with x.” These notes can be seen in the Ransom Center’s current exhibition Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century, on display through July 31.

Woodward’s notes with Felt were used for the October 10, 1974 Washington Post story that exposed the Watergate burglary as part of a larger plan. The notes, marked up with spelling corrections and asterisks, quote Felt saying, “no names but everyone in the book.”

Soon after winning the Pulitzer Prize for their reporting in May 1973, Woodward and Bernstein signed a contract with Simon and Schuster to write a book about Watergate. Working nights and weekends while still covering the scandal for The Washington Post, the reporters tried several approaches, including telling the story from the burglars’ perspective. In an early outline of the book, the reporters briefly describe a day in the life of many of the major conspirators. Eventually Woodward and Bernstein decided to tell the story of their own investigation of the break-in and cover-up.

In 1976 the film version of Woodward and Bernstein’s 1974 book, All the President’s Men, was a box office success. In the publicity surrounding the film, Woodward and Bernstein received as much notoriety as the stars who portrayed them, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.

Comments

Ed Gray
Reply

This is an incredibly useful original source document. Thank you for posting and therefore highlighting it.

As recorded in the displayed interview notes, on October 9, 1972, “X” told Woodward that immediately after the burglary John Mitchell, former attorney general and now chairman of the Committee for the Reelection of the President (CREEP), conducted his own investigation.

Here’s how this displayed interview appears in the book All the President’s Men, as an exact quote from “Deep Throat” during one of their clandestine garage meetings:

“Mitchell conducted his own–he called it an investigation–for about ten days after June 17. And he was going crazy. He found all sorts of new things which astounded even him. At some point, Howard Hunt, of all the ironies, was assigned to help Mitchell get some information. Like lightning, he was pulled off and fired and told to pack up his desk and leave town forever. By no less than John Ehrlichman.”

It’s close, but note that it’s not the full quote. In the posted note “X” had said to Woodward, “We had guys assigned to him to help.” It was a critical bit of information, but if Woodward wanted to shield his source, he couldn’t use it in the book since it identified “Deep Throat” as being part of a group of insiders “assigned to help.”

But the dropped quote also tells us who “X” was not. If “X” was Mark Felt, the number two man in the Bureau, then his “we” could only mean the FBI. But there certainly were no FBI agents assigned to an internal CREEP investigation of its own employees immediately after the break-in: The wrongdoing of those employees was precisely what Mitchell and CREEP wanted to keep away from the FBI. If there had been FBI agents “assigned to him to help” who “found all sorts of new things,” not only would the Watergate case have been broken during those first ten days, but the FBI’s Watergate file, now open to the public in its entirety, would be filled with official summaries of the resultant interviews. There are none.

(An important aside: Among Felt’s supporters are those who have suggested that he and other disillusioned special agents deliberately withheld information from their reports, fearing that the reports were being made available to the White House and thus enabling the cover-up. But to accuse any agent of doing that is to accuse that agent of breaking the law. Page 17 of the FBI Rules and Regulations, Agents Handbook in effect at the time makes it plain: “All investigative activity must be made a matter of record in the field office files with all sources of information being completely identified. Sources include confidential informants – criminal, security, and extremist. Agents must not have and use informants known only to the individual agents personally.” Thus, in order for the “guys assigned to him to help” to have been FBI special agents, every one of them would have had to agree to violate his sworn oath and commit a crime, and to have made that decision not later, after the cover-up had actually begun, but immediately, during the first ten days of an interception-of-communications investigation that had not yet led anywhere near the president and his men. That, of course, did not happen. Those “guys assigned to him to help” were not from the FBI.)

The conclusion is inescapable: “X” could not have been Mark Felt. It was someone from outside the FBI, someone close enough to CREEP to be asked immediately to “help.”

Thanks to HRC the trail toward the identity of the real source still being shielded by Woodward is open to any researcher willing to embark upon it. A good starting point, also publicly available at HRC, is the contract under which Woodward and Bernstein sold this document and others to the people of Texas for $5 million. That contract requires Woodward to submit all of his “Deep Throat” notes to HRC because they are now the property of HRC. When they do arrive to join this one, we’ll all know who “Deep Throat” was. A good working hypothesis for any researcher is that “Deep Throat” wasn’t Mark Felt, it was a fictionalized composite.

Phil Mellinger
Reply

Ed — I like the idea of a working hypothesis that Deep Throat wasn’t Mark Felt. However, I think the real key is tracing the information that Deep Throat gave Bob Woodward. You of all people should know that little if any of the information that Deep Throat gave Mark Felt is derived from the FBI files. Prove it yourself. If the information that Felt gave Woodward did not come from the FBI files, then where did it come from? Who knew the information? As far as I can tell, there is only one person that could have been the source for all the information that Mark Felt gave Bob Woodward. The fact that there is such a person puts in doubt the “fictionalized composite” hypothesis. Trace the information. I’ll give you my notes. In my mind, there is no doubt.

Carrie Cole
Reply

Odd question, perhaps. Can anyone tell me how to find blanks of this kind of paper that Woodward used to type his notes? It’s a gift for a person very interested in the story, and loves the movie where we see this paper over and over again.

Thanks!
Carrie

NickH
Reply

Carrie: I came here with almost the same question, wondering what the paper is.

According to the Harry Ransom Center, “Woodward and Bernstein typed all of these drafts on the six-ply carbonless paper used by the Washington Post at that time for news copy drafts. The paper is specially coated to transmit typed or written marks from the top sheet to underlying sheets without the use of traditional carbon paper. By using this paper, Woodward and Bernstein created five copies of every typed page.”

I haven’t the foggiest idea if there is something similar in the market (reproduction, or otherwise) these days.

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